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10 Qualities Looked For During Interviews

Q. The other day I felt an interview slipping away from me, when I heard the interviewer make this statement: "I'm sorry, but we don't have anything right now that matches your qualifications. You've got a good track record, and we'll keep your resume in our active files." Since I fit the job requirements exactly, what else could interviewers be looking for?

A. It's not easy to pinpoint what interviewers are after. You may be confronted with as many different approaches as there are interviewers. Having said that, the following list of 10 qualities is what I have followed when I have conducted interviews, and it's also what I tell my clients to follow.

  1. Look for people with a lot of energy. The race may not always be to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but when you are preparing to wager on what you hope will be a winner, that is the way to place your money.

    The point is that some people are, quite simply, born with more energy than others. At an interview, or almost anywhere, they naturally exude vigor, enthusiasm, and drive. They both want and need to be active, up and doing. You can sense this quality in a person almost as soon as he/she walks into the room. It is an innate drive that puts a spring in their step and makes their eyes sparkle. Put your money on just such a person.

  2. Look for people who channel their energy into their work. Do not be deceived by people who talk about hard work, and say what a lot of hard work they do. To the lazy person, everything is hard work, and he/she spends much or all of their time complaining about it. One candidate who didn't get the job said in an interview, "I met a few people in my time who were enthusiastic about hard work, but it was just my luck that all of them happened to be men I was working for at the time." Solid evidence of an individual whose values may be embedded with the whole work ethic includes:

    • Parents, heroes, or mentors who believed in hard work
    • Work-oriented spare-time interests
    • Willingness to take a second job
    • No concern at all with hours worked-no clockwatching
    • High career goals
    • Completes anything undertaken
    • Paid own way through college

  3. Look for evidence of role-awareness. Candidates who present themselves for an interview should be aware that today they are onstage. If the candidate is at all sensitive to the expectations of corporate life, they will have chosen their costume with care and got the rest of their act together too.

    If a candidate arrives in attire more suitable for a golfing outing than a corporate setting, then you may immediately infer that they lack role-awareness. And if he/she lacks it on this particular day, you may be sure they will never have it.

  4. Look for inner motivation based on family background. It's not so much what you have or where you were born that counts, as what you did with what you had and what you make of your own life. In trying to determine what you did with what you had, I always subtract what you began with from what you have now, and look at the difference.

  5. Look for emotional maturity. People grow up three ways: physically, intellectually, and emotionally. Most executives mature physically and intellectually, but emotional maturity can never be taken for granted. Whereas you can see that a person is fully grown physically, and you can check their college to ensure that they are intellectually sound, badges or certificates of emotional maturity are unavailable.

    Spotting immaturity - and, therefore, also maturity - is difficult. However, the immature person inevitably possesses two qualities to mislead you: childlike charm and, as the result of long experience, the capacity to distract attention from their shortcomings. The immature person is not a good employment risk as a line manager because, like most children, they are essentially concerned only with their own immediate gratification and also because he/she tends to see their employer as a sort of Santa Claus. What they want is to have someone to look after them just like their parents did for them until they left home at age twenty-eight!

    Conversely, the best index of maturity is consideration and concern for the well being of other people. Three excellent clues to an individual's emotional maturity are these:

    • Judgment. Have they handled themselves well in their ongoing business affairs? or have they embarked upon harebrained, get-rich-quick schemes?

    • Finances. Are they living within their means? Is he/she financially secure enough to suggest that their personal, financial money-decisions are being taken with a cool, clear, adult head?

    • The number of past employers and the manner of their departures from them. Have they pursued their career in a mature and adult manner? Particularly, have they job-hopped without realistic consideration for the future of either their employer or themselves?

  6. Look for someone who can profitably channel his or her hostilities. You want to hire a person with fire in their belly, of course, but at the same time you don't want a rebel without a cause. The best job-seeking candidate can temper their hostilities with tact and in a mature business like manner. And, if they can't do that, you, as the interviewer may be in for trouble. So especially watch for evidence of spite unreasonably directed toward previous employers and associates.

  7. Look for the need to finish a task begun. Evidence of this delightful condition will be discovered simply by looking for a goal-oriented individual with a history of completing anything undertaken, as for example; finishing a college degree, writing an article and getting it published or, best of all, successfully putting together a sound and progressive business career.

  8. Look for a candidate that wants to do a good job and not just interested in earning a paycheck. If you hire a mercenary, someone who believes in your cause only as long as the money is good, then you may be courting trouble. Such a person usually lacks any inner job motivation, and, as a result, often harbors a deep resentment of their dependency upon their employer; in consequence they will be ambivalent to a fault, particularly if they are well paid.

  9. Look for loyalty to your cause. Loyalty means not that I agree with everything you say or that I believe you are always right. Loyalty means that I share a common ideal with you and that, regardless of minor differences, we fight for it, shoulder-to-shoulder, confident in one another's good faith, trust, constancy, and affection.

    The key to loyalty, whether you're recruiting an executive or making a friend, is in finding that common ideal, and once again this should stem from an individuals deepest underlying values. If these values are not in harmony with those of your cause or the company's cause, then loyalty may be unattainable.

  10. Look for compatibility. Individuals make up teams, but compatible individuals make the best teams. Any candidate who is unnecessarily touchy and thin-skinned at an employment interview will probably be abrasive and disruptive if he/she joins the team. A get-along, go-along person who also works hard is a jewel, because their shine attracts people like themselves. Remember that the opposite is also true; the bad has a strong tendency to drive out the good.

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Guest columnist Joe Hodowanes MPA, SPHR is Career Strategy Advisor and President of J.M. Wanes & Associates, Tampa, FL 33688. - Email:

This article is reprinted with permission.

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 © CPAmerica International    

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